Pro-poor benefit distribution in REDD+: Who gets what and why does it matter?
Ensuring that the poor or the most vulnerable sections of society benefit from REDD+ projects is crucial to building both national and international legitimacy and to fostering successful delivery of conservation and social objectives. In both academic and non-academic literature, issues of the equity of benefit-sharing at a community or household level are overlooked compared with distributional issues at the national and international level. Therefore, this paper aims to look at some of the issues related to benefit distribution at village and household level. Two very important factors that are likely to affect benefit distribution from REDD+ at a village level are whether payments are made directly to households or to communities as a whole; and whether payments are made in cash or in kind. In addition, the paper looks at the following design questions, which are closely related to these above factors: 1. What should the provision of benefits be based on – landholding size, actual emission reductions or the demography of the community – to ensure that equitable design criteria are met? 2. How can it be ensured that more vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities, the smalllandholders and landless poor, women and children do not lose out? 3. What impact would the type of benefit transferred have on the well-being of the communities and the local economy? To this end, experiences are reviewed from payments for ecosystem services, integrated conservation and development projects, community-based natural resource management and food or cash transfer programmes across the global south. In addition, benefit distribution systems that would enable the REDD+ pilot projects in general are suggested, and the REDD pilot project in Cat Tien National Park in particular, to be more pro-poor. Evidence is examined on how well schemes meet external criteria of equitable benefit distribution as well as assessing the perceptions of those involved. Conclusions drawn include: l Whether benefits are provided to a community as a whole or to individual households, and what benefits to transfer, are decisions that should be made on the basis of community consultation and careful assessment of their preferences. l Even though determining payment types and levels is best tailored through consultations with local people to best match community aspirations and those in need, economic feasibility, local institutional capacity and governance structures, and the effects on the local economy and on the livelihoods of the poor households should be carefully weighed and assessed. l Assessment of the preference for payment type should not be a one-off activity. Because participant communities are unlikely to have experience in receiving rewards in exchange for ecosystem service provision, their stated preferences may not be accurate in the early stages of the scheme. Once the scheme is implemented and communities start receiving payment, their preferences should be periodically assessed and changes in payment type should be made accordingly. This will increase the implementation and transaction costs of REDD+. Project developers and designers should budget for the cost of participation at the project design phase. l To promote pro-poor benefit distribution from REDD+ interventions, benefit distribution based on proportionality and the equality of opportunities to participate would be more relevant in areas where the participants are characterized by less inequality. In an unequal society (for example characterized by land disparity), on the other hand, benefit distribution based on need that positively discriminates in favour of the poor would be more desirable so that poor or weak claimants do not receive disproportionately lower benefits than the relatively well-off.
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